If you are visiting Sunderland for any length of time, make sure you spend an hour or two at the Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens; a place where you can learn local history and browse the plants in the winter garden. Entry into the museum and winter gardens is free.
The museum is located next to Mowbray Park and is also close to shops, restaurants and other facilities in the city centre. I always find it a great sanctuary when it is cold or wet and you have some time to spare.
The museum itself has several floors, each covering a different subject; the ground floor has exhibits about coal mining and what life was like as a minor. You will also find the very first Nissan car made in Sunderland. The winter gardens can be found on the ground floor too, which contains many species of plants and trees; there is also a fish pond. There is a platform that you can access via a glass lift, this gives you views of the plants and trees from above.
Other floors in the museum include: beautiful glassware; a guide to local history over the years via video and audio guides; stuffed animals (taxidermy); a living lobster and various fish species; local fashions and traditions; ship building and local geology. Some of the exhibits have buttons that you press so that you can listen to audio or video guides. Some buttons activate machines or engines.
I have found on occasion that a couple of the interactive exhibits did not work properly, such as visual displays not working when you push the buttons; hopefully they will have been rectified.
The top floor has an art gallery showing traditional and contemporary paintings. I believe there is also an area on the top floor which shows temporary exhibitions done by different artists.
If you want refreshments, there is a nice cafe on the ground floor next to the winter gardens; this cafe has views of (and access to) nearby Mowbray Park. The cafe is not cheap, however I would not say it is extortionate and offers a nice selection of light lunches and refreshments. There is also a gift shop in the entrance to the museum.
I would definitely visit this place if you are planning to visit Sunderland.
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